Pen and paper. These two made her change her life.
Without any property or belongings because of poverty, a 17-year-old girl toppled other 832 graduating students of Sagay National High School because of her dreams. She did not have that much money and never owned a cellphone but with a paper and a pencil, along with her determination, she is this year’s valedictorian.
Arlyn Martinez is a daughter of a `sacada’, a laborer or planter of sugarcane in Negros Occidental, known to be the ‘sugar capital’ or ‘sugar bowl’ of the Philippines.
Living in a secluded hacienda in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, walking almost an hour before reaching to school is not new to her.
Fresh from her memories as she recalls her past, Arlyn said everyday she has to walk far or ride on her father’s carabao to get to a main road and then get a tricycle to go to school.
Arlyn said she may not have tasted the luxuries in life like living in a comfortable house or even riding a car just like some of her well-off classmates and schoolmates but maintains a happy disposition
“I am happy because love abounds in our family. I also appreciate the sacrifices of my father to provide us our needs,” she said.
PROUD TO BE A DAUGHTER OF A SACADA
For Arlyn, there is great pride in being a daughter of sacada.
“My father has been working hard to feed the 10 hungry mouths including my young twin sisters,” she said.
She added that, “There is nothing compared to the hard work and manual labor of my father as a `karga tapas’ (the process of manually cutting and loading sugarcane onto trucks) in the sugarcane field.”
She also said that there was even a time when he dabbled as a sugarcane worker and then plowed the farm at night to sustain the whole family’s needs.
PAY IT FORWARD
“Despite the difficulty in life, the brunt of poverty has been lightened because of the atmosphere of love at home,” she said.
Someday, Arlyn dreams of uplifting her family’s condition. “As what I promised to myself, I want to pay back my father’s sacrifices that is why I study hard,” she said.
THE PROGRAM’S HELP
Arlyn’s family is included in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) – the government’s anti-poverty strategy to ensure that the children are healthy and in school.
Arlyn together with her two other siblings are covered by the program. She said the cash grant they are receiving every after two months helps a lot on their daily expenses especially for their baon, school supplies and uniform.
“The program has helped me to be the valedictorian of our class,” she said.
If given an opportunity, Arlyn wants either to be an engineer or a teacher. She promised that when she gets a job and gets her first salary, she wants to buy a carabao so that her father could already own one.
During her valedictory speech, Arlyn told her parents how lucky she is to have them and how thankful she is to them to make sure that she does not suffer the same fate since they only finished elementary education.
“Despite poverty, we don’t need to lose hope. Let us keep dreaming and working hard because these will definitely pay off all our sacrifices and later on, the realization of our dreams and what lives we want to be in the future,” Arlyn said as she stood before the stage and wearing her white toga.